In the past thirty years, great strides have been made to diversify the curriculum in women’s and gender studies in terms of race, class, nationality, gender, and sexuality; however, linguistic diversity, perhaps not surprisingly, often remains an inherent stumbling block. What Adrienne Rich famously characterized in the 1970s as “the dream of a common language,” unfortunately often defaults to English in feminist classrooms throughout North America. This article argues that women’s and gender studies, as a discipline, needs to reflect more fully on the limitations of classroom discussions conducted in English and to develop more instructional strategies to engage multilingual voices. To this end, the article suggests that lessons based on multilingual and vernacular poetry by women can be used to disrupt the desires for a transparent univocal language, and to transform the widespread perception that multilingualism fosters disengagement and miscommunication. A key aspect of the approach involves using vernacular English poems to introduce students to the borderlands between different languages. By focusing on classroom strategies, the article demonstrates the value of small-scale acts, in addition to broader curricular changes for transforming systems of oppression.


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pp. 70-92
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